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11 best places to visit in Ecuador – Lonely Planet

A female dancer with a yellow scarf on the street in Quito, Ecuador

Many of South America’s greatest hits can be found in Ecuador – from Andean peaks and the Amazon to tropical beaches, Inca ruins and the wonders of the Galápagos Islands. Pretty impressive for a country that’s a fraction of the size of its neighbors!

The hardest part is deciding which part to visit first. To help you on your way, here’s our pick of the best places to visit in Ecuador.

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1. Quito

Best city for living the Andean highlife

Strewn across a mountain valley and surrounded by volcanoes, Quito is quite the spectacle. The Ecuadorian capital is a fascinating melange of cultures and a living museum of Spanish-era architecture. For the full panorama, take the TelefériQo gondola up the Pichincha volcano, but give yourself a day or two to acclimatize to Quito’s lofty altitude before venturing to the high ground.

In the meantime, admire the faded grandeur of the charming, Unesco-listed old town, calling at Museo de la Ciudad to learn more about the city’s colorful backstory. And visit the churches – Quito has one of the largest collections of old churches in South America, with the Basílica del Voto Nacional and the gilded Church of la Compañía de Jesús among the highlights.

Quito’s markets are another must-see. Watch shamanic healers ply their trade at Mercado San Francisco before sampling local specialties such as locro de papas (potato stew), roast guinea pig and cow’s feet soup. And when the sun goes down? Head to La Ronda, a former red-light district turned entertainment quarter, which has live music and lots of cozy bars. 

Quito and other Ecuadorian cities are a hypnotic blend of colonial architecture and indigenous culture © Hugh Sitton / Getty Images

2. The Equator 

Best place to stand in two hemispheres at once

Straddling the equator – hence its name – Ecuador is one of the few places where travelers can take selfies of themselves with one foot in each hemisphere. A huge granite monument dubbed Mitad del Mundo (‘the middle of the world’) marks the location of the equator north of Quito – only it’s in the wrong place.

Modern GPS sets the record straight, placing the true equator near the Museo Solar Inti Ñan. Guides here will show you water swirling differently on each side of the line, plus other fun demonstrations relating to the equator. You’ll have to decide for…

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